The Ark of the North Country Girl and the Cape of Curiosity by Sarah McRae Morton, Oil on linen, 36″ x 48″
Sarah McRae Morton – Wow. Such interesting subject matter. Her paintings are phenomenal and it shows by the number that has sold. There is a show for Sarah at the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. It began on September 5 and runs through September 27, 2014 – if you’re in the vicinity, try to make it! See Sarah’s paintings in person. Experience one of the most amazing galleries ever.
From the Dowling Walsh website:
CURRENT SHOW: “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” – SEPTEMBER 5-27, 2014
A family tie brought me to Maine. I have returned, following windy curiosity to see whereseafarers fed my favorite painters, find the “Grim and Wild Maine” described by Thoreau, follow water veins he coursed with Penobscot guides, and hear the wrath of the ocean onthe fortress walls of Monhegan.
The subjects in “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” are the people from whom I am descended, by blood or by the “marrow of artistic tradition”, all of whom led me to a place and time in Maine. The present, as a culmination of chances, is one lock of a braided theme joining pieces in this suite of work. The other two lineages of the binding braid are the history of a family, and that of a string of artists. From each I have inherited substance to make paintings.
These paintings are maps of retraced steps, records of the roads taken to try to capture images of people long gone. They are invented portraits of the shells of tenacious spirits who have survived because their stories are transmitted around campfires, between rocking chairs, and under moth eaten black skies. They had memorable lives or unforgettable brushes with death and left enough legacy, artifacts or genetic residue to retell their stories. What they all have in common is me, a common descendant.
As there is an optimal viewing distance for every painting, it seems true of history too – perspective clarifies some facts and can obscure what we wish not to see. It’s a metaphor I elude to by rendering some detail finely while blurring other passages within the same frame.
My paintings mimic American academic construction. The compositions draw from a canon of western paintings where a common goal was to deceive the viewer- to build a believable window view to an invented scene by an alchemic process using dirt, stone oil, sap, gems and flax. The style of the pieces varies according to the prevalent style of art during each character’s lifetime, displaying facets of aesthetic traditions, or challenges to convention that made American art history.
The process of learning to see gave me the title of the show, “The Impossible Sight of a Ship” .It has been theorized that when European vessels first appeared on the horizon of the Americas, native people could not “see” the ships. Having never laid eyes on such objects before, they were not primed to recognize the shapes of the bow, hull and sails…or see the apparition as portent of a storm.
The concept that it is an acquired ability to recognize objects, illusions, constructions, pictures is a useful analogy for my process of painting. My work is a continuation of the endeavors of others. The ship is impossible for me to see without the ghosts of earlier images on my retinas. I relied on the work of the Wyeths, Homer, Peal, Sully, Eakins to compose these pictures.
Read a bit about Sarah from the Dowling Walsh website (I love bios that tell a story!):
I began painting in a barn loft turned studio when I was eight. The surrounding Amish farmed fields, livestock, barn raisings and quilt auctions were my repeated subjects. Creating pictures led me to an understanding of my place adjacent to that world, and it was art that inspired me to move away from it. Reading through a trove of art history books in the barn ignited my curiosity to pursue art seriously. During and after my high school years I studied drawing and color theory with Myron Barnstone in Coplay, Pennsylvania. For four years I attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and took history courses at The University of Pennsylvania. When I was awarded a PAFA fellowship to travel to Europe in 2006 I took the opportunity to study art restoration and conservation in Rome. Then, in Norway, I studied with painter Odd Nerdrum.
When I returned from abroad I settled in a coal mining region of West Virginia to create a body of work about the local history. Based on these paintings, I was awarded a Matisse Foundation Fellowship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine in 2008. Since then, I have painted series in Cerillos, New Mexico; Carmel, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Freiburg, Germany; and Johnson Vermont at Vermont Studio Center. Painting is my means to relay stories and share ideas. I depend on themes and symbols from western art history to create allegory. When I paint about events I am ever aware of how my lens has been curved, my point of view determined by travel, books, past artists and new meetings. I currently live in Cologne, Germany, but my paintings undoubtedly reflect the setting of my upbringing in rural Pennsylvania. I often return to work in my childhood studio above the horse stalls.
Image via DowlingWalsh.com, used with permission…
Catch you back here tomorrow!